Azerbaijani Human Rights Defender detained in Tbilisi

Aftandil Mammadov, a human rights defender who fled to Georgia nearly two years ago, was detained by police in Tbilisi on June 17.

Aftandil Mammadov, a human rights defender who fled to Georgia nearly two years ago, was detained by police in Tbilisi on June 17.

"Avtandil has not left Azerbaijan for Georgia under his will. He was pressured [in Azerbaijan] and now I have heard he is in custody [in Georgia],” Mammadov’s mother, Malahat Mammadova, told Meydan TV.

“If they bring him to Azerbaijan, God knows what will happen to him,” Mammadova said.

Mammadov was born in the Rustup village of Azerbaijan’s Guba region and left Azerbaijan in 2017. He allegedly left Azerbaijan because he was subjected to pressure for his work as a human rights defender.

Mammadov is an activist known for publicizing the mistreatment and illegal behaviors of local executive authorities of the Guba region, a move that made him appear more often at police offices in the region.

Mammadov’s mother says he was forced to leave Azerbaijan because he could not stand the pressure anymore.

The Tbilisi authorities refused to give him political asylum, and his case still remains in the Appeal Court.

The reason of his detention is not yet known. Human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev has told Turan news agency that Mammadov was detained on an extradition request from the Azerbaijani government.

Mammadov has been brought under criminal investigation by the Guba District Police Office. It is not yet clear however what exactly he is accused of.

Gulaliyev said the extradition request of the Azerbaijani government might be related to social media posts by the activist that are critical of the Azerbaijani government. He was also actively involved in the rally recently held in Tbilisi in support of the investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli who was kidnapped in the Georgian capital city and illegally brought to Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2017. Gulaliyev thinks Mammadov’s arrest might also be related to the critical speech he delivered at the rally.

Gulaliyev said the Georgian court should consider the issue of Mammadov’s extradition within 72 hours.

Activist’s mother Mammadova has called local and international human rights defenders to come to the defense of her son.

Georgia, once a paradise for human rights activists and dissidents running away from the pressure of the Azerbaijani government, has become an unsafe space after exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi and taken to be detained in Azerbaijan in 2017.

Mukhtarli, who had contributed to the Berlin-based independent news outlet Meydan TV, fled to Georgia from Azerbaijan in 2014. He had received threats in relation to his investigative reporting on alleged corruption in the Azerbaijani government before his illegal kidnapping.

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